Efi, the oldest chicken at Bhudeva, died. I found her unmoving but breathing yesterday and carried her outside to some soft green grass and sunshine, placed her back inside in the evening and found her dead this morning. She had a mixture of grey (her name came from the Hebrew word for gray) and white feathers.
If I remember correctly she was a Bhudeva native … she was first an egg here and then hatched in the first generation of chicks that were born here (though she may be from the initial batch of chicks that Andreea’s aunt gifted us when we moved to Bhudeva). Andreea was still here and she used to spend time with the chickens (more then I did/do). Efi was the chicken that most clearly responded to Andreea’s affections. As a result she, unlike the rest of the chickens, actually came up to people asking for attentions. When I went to give the chickens food in the morning she would come up to me so close that I would have be careful not to step on her. She let me caress her neck (and would lower her head for better access), massage her chest, she would lift her wings for some under-wing touching. More like a dog then a chicken.
Over the last two years I thought about culling her (it wasn’t personal, just flock management) … but didn’t. She hasn’t been productive for a long time. She had to be separated from the main flock because the males would be too hard on her. She had patches of missing feathers and sometimes and raw skin from the males mounting her. She spent the lat couple of months together with an old(ish) male – they became very intimate … like a couple of pensioners. I left the two of them in the barn when I moved the rest of the chickens to pasture. Sometimes I let them out for some sun and grass … but only when I was around to supervise so that they didn’t damage garden plants. He was more active. She would find a comfortable spot to sit … and just sit there. When I was around she sometimes stayed close to me.
Yesterday I felt she was nearing her end. This morning she was gone. I asked myself what to do with her – compost or bury? An answer came: “bury”. I asked myself where? An answer came “next to the experimental swale”. I asked myself now (I had just come out of my morning practice, I wanted to make breakfast and it was raining) or later? An answer came: “now”. So off I went …
I carried her up the hill to the swale and started digging a hole. It then came to me to plant a tree on top of her. I asked myself which tree? An answer came “the acacia tree on the path next to the house”. I started walking in that direction to dig up the tree … on the way I passed the prune orchard and asked myself “how about a prune tree?” An answer came “no”. I continued to the tree but it was too big and too established to dig out and transport. I was sent to another tree on a path that winds up behind the house. It too was established but it was willing to go. I found myself digging and working hard … the rich clay soil is saturated with water … and the tree has strong roots. I had to bring an axe to cut through some of the roots. I got it out … the root system was large with two large stems growing out of it. I dragged the tree with me to the swale and continued digging a larger hole to accommodate the large roots. It was an elongated hole. I placed Efi’s body gently in on one end, covered it with some soil, then added the tree and covered it all.
I got home tired, wet, sweaty and dirty (I had only planned to step out for a short/soft morning round). I got out of my clothes and had a short shower. I dressed in a random selection of mismatched colors. I then resumed my breakfast plans … centered around an omlette with freshly harvested after-the-rain-mushrooms, wild nettles and spinach leaves from the garden. An abundant experience … an abundance which Efi is now a part of.
During all this I was wondering – why? What was so special about Efi? I am not an animal lover … certainly not an emotional one. Why would I delay my breakfast, go out in the rain and mud, carry a dead chicken and an uprooted tree up a hill? Efi’s behavior was not a result of my caring for her … it was Andreea’s relating to her … and THAT was why. Efi was and continues to be a reminder of a quality of relationship that Andreea nurtured. A vibration I deeply appreciate. I didn’t put Efi in the compost pile (where she would have been recycled into nutrients which would have nourished the Bhudeva ecosystem) because I wanted that vibration to cycle more deeply into the ecology of Bhudeva.
An acacia tree signifies a deeper relationship than a prune tree. The prune tree may have have produced fruits for me, but the acacia tree will nurture the soil it grows on and its surrounding ecology creating longer lasting effects. The location is at an experiment of healing and restoration. The tree has two stems sticking out in a V shape … a shape of expansion that Andreea introduced into our life and Bhudeva.
All those vibrations (and more than I am conscious of) resonated through me, through Efi, through Andreea … and into the earth here at Bhudeva … on this delicate, rainy spring morning.